🔴 Parents and teachers need to prepare for active shooter drills in NJ schools

🔴 A former FBI crisis analyst offers tips and training techniques

🔴 Teachers need to have three plans in place to protect themselves and students

As back-to-school begins soon in New Jersey, a former FBI crisis analyst has some tips for parents to prepare their children for active shooter drills, and for teachers to carry out successful drills.

These drills may be sad to think about but they are a reality in today’s society.

How can parents prepare their kids?

Parents simply need to talk to their kids about these drills, and not ignore them, said Gregory Vecchi, director of training at SafeDefend in Kansas, who goes to schools around the country to talk to parents and train teachers for such events.

Just like a fire or a tornado drill, lockdown drills are now a part of school drills, and kids need to understand these are practices. They will be kept safe but they need to follow directions.

How to prepare the youngest children

When talking to children 5 years and older, Vecchi said parents should let them know they will have active shooter and lockdown drills in school.

Tell them these drills will happen in the school several times a year. Assure them they are not in any danger but they need to practice just in case something bad ever happens.

For kids under 5 years old, parents can still prep them but differently, Vecchi said. Let them know before the drill that they are going to practice staying safe in case something scary happens at school. They may have to practice sitting, staying in one area for a while, or walking quickly out of school, and that’s okay. Reassure them that their teacher will be with them every step of the way.

He said if an active shooter situation were to happen, think of how scary that must be for children. So, they must have leadership. A plan has to be put in place. Any child in K-12 will look to a teacher or a counselor for leadership and guidance and will do what they are told.

Parents should also talk to their child’s school. Ask what about the active shooter drill plan. What is it? What is involved? How often will it be conducted during the school year?

What should teachers do?

Vecchi said he travels to schools showing teachers they must have three plans in place, which he simply named, Plan “A”, Plan “B”, and Plan “C”.

Children running through hallway
Steve Frost, ThinkStock

Plan A: How to Escape

Teachers must have an escape route prepared in their minds. Know where the exits and alternate exits are in the school.

“You have to know that when you run out if it’s clear for you to run, and you run into a police officer, which you very well may, you don’t want to have anything in your hands. You want to show them your palms because they don’t know if you’re a good guy or a bad guy,” Vecchi said.

Put keys and cell phones in your pockets.

Never hesitate. If there is hesitation, that can lead to injury or death. Vecchi said if the decision is to run, then teachers need to take their kids and run.

“We have found out that looking through case studies, most injuries happen within 8 feet of the attacker,” Vecchi said.

So, if the teachers and students can move away and run in a zig-zag motion as they’re looking for cover, then it’s highly unlikely anyone will get seriously hurt. It doesn’t mean nobody will get hurt, but running zig-zag and putting an 8-foot distance between them and the attacker, lessens that chance, Vecchi said.

Once outside the school, don’t stop and don’t regroup because there could be another attacker. Keep moving and have a place to go.

If you run into wounded people, unfortunately, don’t stop to help them. It will only put the injured person and the students you’re trying to protect in further danger.

Gilles Glod

Plan B: Evasion

If escaping is not an option, then a lockdown must be put into place in the classroom, Vecchi said. The most important thing is for teachers to have a working lock on the door that can be locked from the inside and cannot be opened from the outside.

“What we have found out is that in all of the history of active shooters, active killer attacks, no offender has ever breached a locked door,” Vecchi said.

Have heavy objects like bookshelves or heavy furniture that can be pushed in front of the doors after they are locked, as a second barrier, he added.

Cover the windows either with shades or children’s artwork to mask the view.

Move away from the door and get out of the view of the door. Sometimes doors, even steel doors, don’t stop bullets, Vecchi said. Turn off the lights, silence phones, and move to a safe corner of the classroom.


Plan C: Engaging the Offender

This does not mean to go after the offender, Vecchi said.

But if an attacker were to get into a classroom, he said it’s important to have improvised weapons. When Vecchi comes to schools to teach these plans to teachers, he comes equipped with certain weapons like batons, pepper spray, and high-intensity strobe lights to blind the offender. He shows teachers how to properly use these “weapons” to fend off an attacker.

Even if a teacher does not have these safety tools, anything can act as a weapon, like a fire extinguisher or a coffee cup.

Vecchi said it’s important to commit to your actions until the attacker is subdued. Everything up to and including deadly force is fair in this situation.

Close up portrait of crying little toddler girl with outdoors background. Child

Is there anything else?

Yes. Vecchi said another skill that he teaches is showing teachers how to properly stop the bleeding in case someone is shot or stabbed.

“We find that most people who get seriously injured or die, they don’t die from the injury, from the knife, or the gunshot. They die from blood loss,” he said.

Teachers are shown how to put pressure on the wound, pack the wound, and apply a tourniquet.

Will SafeDefend come to New Jersey?

While Vecchi and SafeDefend have visited schools in about 11 states, and plan to visit Texas and Ohio soon, there are no trainings scheduled for schools in New Jersey or on the East Coast.

But this is something he would love to do, he said.

When Vecchi visits a school, he provides them with safety cabinets in the classrooms. Inside these safety, cabinets are “go bags” which consist of a stop-the-bleed trauma kit, complete with tourniquets and pediatric tourniquets, pepper spray, batons, high-intensity strobe lights, whistles, high visibility vests (so police officers know you’re one of the good guys), and zip tie restraints for offenders.

For more information about SafeDefend, visit here.

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